Rewards Program Strategy

Partner engagement and loyalty are at the top of most channel executive’s agenda and partner rewards are often central to achieving optimal levels of partner program adoption and partner seller engagement.

To develop your rewards program strategy,  it’s best to recognize that your rewards program is likely a tactical element within your overall partner program strategy.  Assuming that you have the right partners in your partner network and a compelling partner value proposition, your partners business objectives and their competencies should support your customer value proposition.  The question, then, is how does your current rewards program or how will a new partner rewards program fit into that partner value proposition and how will it help you connect more effectively with partner sellers to accelerate both the Customer and Seller journeys. Ultimately, the buyer and seller journeys need to be aligned and the right tools put in place to automate those processes:  


B2B Customer Journey 

Seller and Buyer Journeys B2B Seller Journey


Equally important to a successful rewards program strategy is aligning partner individual behaviors and partner organizational outcomes to create a Win-Win-Win:  


Partner Sellers

 Rewarding individual partner sellers for their efforts has been a key component of most technology company partner programs in one form or another for many years.

 As industry evolves and adopts new business models, new selling methods, improved data and analytic insight, the need to connect to the partner seller  — emotionally as well as economically has not changed. How to do so, however, is changing dramatically.

 Spiffs — the cash reward given to a partner sales rep for selling whatever product/SKU a vendor needs to move — are under greater pressure than ever to align with the partner firms’ objectives and perhaps, more urgently, to become more cognizant of current compensation models and the shift from products to solutions/services.  The ‘cash spiff’  for closing product sales simply doesn’t fit the new realities.

 Partner Sales Rep :  For most B2B technology solutions, the PSR remains central to growing new revenue.  But their job content has been dramatically altered; the sales cycle is no longer theirs to ‘control’ (the Buyers Journey is now more than 55% complete before they’re even aware).  Successful reps always adapt.  Rewards can help accelerate that shift.

 Team Selling: The PSR is no longer a lone wolf but far more often part of a team including inbound/outbound as well as technical pre-sales support including:

 Partner Sales Engineer:  Depending on the complexitiy of the customer solution,  the PSE may play an even more critical customer-facing role in assuring customer success (and happy customers lead to renewal and growth business).

 Marketing Lead:  As  more partners  improve their marketing effectiveness, the marketing role is proving to be key to linking demand to rewarded behaviors.

 Administrative Contact:  What is the time horizon for acheiving the stated goals and how does that relate to program dates and duration.

Partner Firms

 Rewarding desired behaviors by  partners’ employees should not create ease of doing business challenges for the partner firm nor should they be naively designed to circumvent partner management engagement. Successful rewards programs are highly dependent on partner adoption — not just individually but also organizationally.

 The vast majority of partner program investments or benefits are outcome based — program tiers, discounts, rebates, objective attainment bonuses, demo equipment, development funds (MDF, BDF, JMF) as well as technical and sales enablement and marketing/demand generation tools. They should and do accrue at the organizational level based on organizational performance.

 Rewards, however, are aimed at individual and team behaviors.   Every effort should be made to connect the reward to the behaviors of  those individual and team performers.

 Gaining partner level adoption is central to how effectively any rewards program is at achieving its behavioral objectitves.  Many rewards programs are sub-optimized by either failing to engage partner management or simply acquiescing to the notion that reaaching the parnter employees cannot be accomplished

 An often overlooked step in Partner Rewards program is making the effort to connect the individual and team behavioral performance to the partner firms economic outcomes.    This can be accomplished in many ways, beginnng with ensuring partner executives receive program dashboard reporting that link to their business performance.   Tieing partner investments (e.g.MDF) to the individual or team performane rewards can also prove effective.


Key Rewards Program Strategy Questions 

Consider the following questions to help ensure that you stay true to your partners and your company’s partner progam objectives while creating an implementation plan for a program that can be both programmatically effective and operationally efficient.

WHY: Strategic Questions to Ask

 Why: Can you clearly articulate the desired business outcomes and specific, measurable objectives?

 Who:  Have you Identified the role(s) within your partners’ organization who, when adopting the desired behaviors, will have the greatest impact?  And who else needs to be involved as a secondary audience?

 What:  Have your determined the specific activities or desired behaviors that will lead to achieving success?

 When:  What is the time horizon for acheiving the stated goals and how does that relate to program dates and duration?

 Where:  What markets are most critical to success – Geo/Vertical/Market Segment/Partner Type or Tier?

 Investment:  What investment is required to achieve success and what are sources of funds?

 Results:  What business impacts must be measured to demonstrate program success?  Quantitatively? Qualitatively?

 Partner Impact: Have you clearly defined the partner value prop and the likely operational impact for your partners and their sales reps.

HOW: Tactical Considerations

 Governance:  What is the governance model required to launch & operate?

 Communications: What are the communication tools and strategies to leverage?

 Technologoy:  What are the tools needed to make this program easy to use for partners and operationally efficient for internal teams? 

 Resources:  What resources will be needed both internally and externally?

 Budget:  Have we secured enough budget to fund the program’s success as well as ensure its smooth operation?

 Field Readiness: What is needed to ensure CAMs will promote the program?

 Partner Adoption: How willl we ensure high levels of partner sales rep engagement?

 Expertise: Do we have the expertise in-house to plan, design and deploy a successful rewards program?  Or do we need help to design and/or implement?